This is going to be a short rant about book reviewers who ding books for being too "unrealistic" when, in fact, the very book they are reviewing is set in a genre that is highly unrealistic.
I have seen numerous reviews by people who will rate a book as low as possible if the book doesn't adhere to an uber-stylized hyper-realism.
I have seen YA paranormal romance novels given bad reviews simply because they weren't "realistic" enough. I have seen zombie novels given poor reviews because they weren't "realistic" enough.
Now realism is just a form of style. But when you are dealing with fantasy novels which involve magic, the paranormal, or the living dead crawling out of their graves--suffice to say--there is only going to be so much realism to the stories to begin with. One has to suspend their disbelief to truly get into the supernatural elements of these types of genres, whether occult, paranormal, or zombie stories.
That's not to say you couldn't write a super-duper uber-stylized hyper-realistic fantasy novel. But what bothers me is the fact that people are down-voting books not because of anything wrong with the writing or storytelling but because they didn't like that one thing that didn't seem real enough for their tastes.
If your preference is for more realistic type stories--don't fucking read fantasy!
If you give a bad review for a fantasy novel based on the fact that it wasn't *real enough for your tastes, you're an idiot. How do I know this? Let's put it the other way around. Down voting a historical biography because it wasn't fantastical enough for you is, well, idiotic. Oh, this popular science book on evolution sucked--there wasn't enough magic in it! This fantasy novel didn't feel real in this one scene, I'm gonna take a crap on it, then bad mouth it online! That'll show em'!
I prefer reviews by people that actually review the content of the work and don't write a one page diatribe about how the book didn't suit their tastes. I not only prefer reading them, I prefer receiving them too. The problem is, many of the so-called reviews that authors get on forums like Amazon.com amount to little more than opinion minus any real discussion of content. And this doesn't help the author. For example, when the reviewer says something like--"The book wasn't realistic enough. It needed more realism."--the author is left wondering what they could have improved on--apart from the vague and nebulous concept of a fantasy novel needing more realism--whatever that might mean.
Recently, I received a rather abysmal review for my book Bitten: A Resurrection Thriller where the reviewer said the story was well written but that the military aspects weren't at all realistic. His review amounted to basically, "I was in the military and nobody can just fire a gun and hit anything without proper training."
Well, okay, you were in the military, so what? One of the things I tried to do was show that my characters do not know how to automatically use weapons. They fumble loading their gun. They drop bullets. They miss when they shoot. They get hurt by handling the gun wrong. Personally, I felt this was more realistic than, well, having all my characters just automatically know how to use weapons.
But the gun play isn't the main aspect of my story. In fact, gun play a minimal role in Bitten because the story isn't about killing zombies--it's about the people. The part of the review that I was interested in most was when he said a lot of the story seemed like a teenager's sex-fantasy. Well, yes, and that was on purpose. And it's part of the story, unlike other novels which just throw in sex, just because. It made me question whether this person actually read the book through to the end, because seeing how sex is utilized as a significant part of the story, for a reason, would be a light-bulb moment for any reviewer who is going to mention it. If you didn't read the book through to the end, however, I could see how it might seem like there was a lot of sex scenes.
Bitten has six sex scenes, if you were wondering. But only one of them is frivolous. The others all are integral parts of the story. And if that doesn't make you curious, I don't know what will.
Well, I can't complain too much. He did find it well written. But then he called it a waste of money. I had to hold back asking him how a well written book could possibly be considered a waste of money, because I didn't want to harass someone about giving me a bad review. That would be unprofessional. So I'll just blog about it instead. After all, everyone is entitled their opinions.
By day I am an educator and a cultural ambassador. By night I entertain notions of being a literary master. In reality I am just a family man and ordinary guy who works hard and loves writing just about as much as I love my family. Just about.